SWITZERLAND • Without modern medical imaging, doctors cannot properly diagnose conditions such as fractures or pneumonia.
And yet, "two-thirds of the global population still don't have access to this technology, which is incredible, considering that the X-ray was first invented more than a century ago", said Mr Bertrand Klaiber, the founder of Pristem.
To address this global health problem, the Lausanne-based entrepreneur developed a robust and inexpensive X-ray machine that can survive environments totally unlike that in the aseptic and air-conditioned hospitals of developed countries.
The GlobalDiagnostiX X-ray machine can withstand temperatures of up to 45 deg C and 98 per cent humidity levels, as well as high quantities of dust.
Electric motors used in industrialised countries to make the arms move have been replaced by a mechanical system, while digital technology instead of radiological films cuts down on costs.
A specially designed generator lets the radiology machine operate for a few hours in a power cut.
"The medical equipment industry has always focused on innovation, but in Africa, the priority lies in meeting basic needs. This is what we're offering, and this requires a certain amount of invention to provide high-quality images in a reliable and sustainable manner," said Mr Klaiber.
Pristem offers inclusive contracts, and the machine comes with a six-year warranty.
Where there is an Internet connection, the devices can be monitored remotely and support given to local personnel to help them do preventive maintenance. Radiology services can also be carried out remotely via the Internet.
The project hopes to create nearly 400 jobs in Africa, and 25 in Switzerland. Both African and Swiss investors have come on board and the start-up is halfway towards meeting funding to put its product on the market.